[Dateline: New York | Author: DPI]
On Friday, 2 April 2010, the world will commemorate for the third time World Autism Awareness Day to highlight a variety of neurological conditions that affect over one percent of all children. The observance will be marked with events in New York on Thursday and Monday and at UN Information Centres, since Friday is a holiday at Headquarters and in many other offices in the world.
Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) typically manifest in children during their first three years of life, and are the result of a neurological disorder that impacts, at various grades and levels, social interaction and communication. Current statistics by the CDC (Center for Disease Control – an American governmental agency) show that for every 110 children, one is diagnosed with an ASD.
“Children and adults with autism – and, indeed, those living with disabilities in general – have a double burden. In addition to the daily challenges of their disability, they must also cope with the negative attitudes of society, inadequate support for their needs and, in some cases, blatant discrimination,” said the Secretary-General BAN Ki-moon in a message.
Access to free evaluations and government-funded therapies are currently the greatest quests by advocates and parents of young children in the Spectrum. However, as these children grow up, they present societies with an equally immediate need: Greater understanding and acceptance of their neurodiversities.
The main goal of World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD) is to inform societies about this condition, and to get rid of the stigma associated with it. Despite the fact that a great deal of children with Autism are –or will be- bullied, and that some autistic adults are rejected by their communities, the best gift that a parent can give a child with autism is the diagnosis, as acceptance and treatment are crucial.
In New York, on Thursday 1 April, Areva Martin, author of The Everyday Advocate and parent of an autistic child, will share her experience at the Bookstore at 12 pm. At 6 p.m., a film entitled The Flood (Mabul) by Israeli director Guy Nativ, will be shown at the X-press Bar (by invitation only).
On Monday 22 April, the Permanent Mission of Qatar will be sponsoring a panel discussion and a reception (venues-to-be-determined), from 3 to 5pm at UN Headquarters. The event, moderated by Al Jazeera’s Riz Khan, will feature parents, therapists, practitioners and special guests from different countries, to discuss issues of common concern under the title “The Impact of Autism on the Family: Families responding to the Challenges." It is open to all.
Since 22 March and throughout the month of April, UNICs and other UN offices in the field are screening the twice Emmy-award winning documentary Autism: The Musical, which chronicles the story of a group of children with Autism and their process of writing, producing and performing an original musical production, seemingly, against all odds. HBO and Miracle have provided 80 DVDs to the UN.
While it is quite devastating for a parent to hear the diagnosis and find out that their child is different, these parents soon realize that they are not alone. And ultimately, they realize that diagnosis doesn't change who their child is.